A couple of weeks ago, Ricky Claudon found himself running around Little Rock chasing after a puppy. As he was unloading his stuff from Pleasureboaters' tour van, he saw the pup escape from a house and go tearing down the road, heading toward the heart of downtown. "Because I was the only one with a heart, I started running after it," he recalls, dropping his sleeping bag and pillow on the sidewalk before embarking on a Disney-style chase scene.
When he made it back to the sidewalk, puppy in tow, two "sketchy-looking" guys were standing where his sleeping gear had been. "I asked them, out of breath -- and giving them the benefit of the doubt -- if they had seen my sleeping bag." Instead of giving him his sleeping bag back, the two men offered to take Claudon on a journey through an alley to show him where he could find a new sleeping bag. He narrowly escaped in time to avoid getting hustled before his next show. Now sleeping in a $10 tarp-like Wal-Mart sleeping bag that has already begun to fall apart, the Seattle band's frontman is a victim (if you can call it that) of his compulsive acts of kindness.
It seems that Claudon lives life in much the same way as he plays and writes music. Pleasureboaters are the result of a methodical study of impulse. Upon the first listen to their first album, & iexcl;Gross!, it's easy to envision the typical packed-to-bursting, noise-filled, sweat-humidified floor of a small hardcore punk show. Underneath the music is a lot of thought and obsession that has gone into each little component. It's aggressive bellowing, but with extra premeditation.
"A lot of it has to do with societal-affected consciousness and human impulse and compulsion," says Claudon. "We all have these tics, and we think about it and incorporate it into our rehearsals and music. We have this fixation with method and combining systematic practice of the compulsory -- and working off of playing on muscular impulses."
Those impulses play out through movement on stage that verges on the vengeful -- frantic motions that audience members seem to crave, and have come to expect, from their shows: Claudon's head whipping backward and paralleling his back with the stage, drummer Tim Cady pounding his feet in a dance around his kit, and plenty of feedback and blurriness. Even Johnny Depp is into it.
Claudon says the shows have been hit and miss -- but mostly good. It's the extracurriculars that have been rough. In addition to puppy chasing and bed hunting, Claudon left his luggage in New Orleans, got pinkeye in Fort Worth, performed with a makeshift pool-stick mic stand in Dallas, and played blackjack with a woman wrapped in a Superman cape and holding a shot of tequila at all times. When asked what they look for in an audience, Claudon says simply, laughing, "Bodies." He recalls a show they played in Tulsa where three people showed up and a man sitting at the bar yelled, "Play a good song." Pleasureboaters responded with three minutes of straight noise, feedback and throwing their bodies around. "Sometimes you want to be confrontational, but sometimes you need to be a conducive force to some other social element."
So they do a lot of thinking. Before Pleasureboaters, Claudon worked on a philosophy degree for a couple of years. During that time, the other members, Cady and Erik Baldwin, formed The Beats, Man, a digital-centric project still alive and well in MySpace-land. While the two were figuring out how to make music that sounded like "a hot lady with big boobs," Claudon says, "I was being miserable, reading Kafka in an empty, overpriced apartment. I shaved my head with an electric razor, right down to the skin... I had some weird meltdowns."
Not long after, the three men -- who originally met while singing classical fare like the Magnificat together in their high school choir -- met up again, deciding to craft deliberately thought-out hardcore music, quite aware that they are all products of the digital age. Having access to music that was once inaccessible and considered absurd was a huge influence on their own projects, giving them a freedom to create and combine those fractured elements into their work.
They're on their way back from an East Coast tour leg, they're running out of gas money, and Spokane is the final stop on their first cross-country pleasure tour. But when all is said and done, Pleasureboaters are really more like speedboats, leaving trails of gritty fuel to slap your face after falling out of your water skis in turbulent waves.
Pleasureboaters with Cyrus Fell Down, Mistress and the Misters and the Pasties at Empyrean on Thursday, April 3, at 7 pm. $5. Call 838-9819.